As the groom’s mother began a short post-rehearsal dinner slideshow she made an important disclaimer.
“The bride’s mom and I have collected as many photos of Christian and Dana as we could, but I have to tell everyone that there are way more photos of him than there are of her …”
As the mother of the groom’s voice trailed away, the void was filled by the bride’s cackle and exclamation: “Of course there aren’t, I was the second child.” Everyone present laughed along with varying levels of comprehension.
Every first-born child, often the subjects of monthly posed pictures and the recipients of the most well-planned and anticipated birthday parties, vaguely knew what she was talking about.
The rest of us, less frequently photographed or feted, knew exactly what she was talking about.
Even though it’s not their fault, first-borns seldom feel the frustration that other siblings experience when asked to produce quality early childhood photographs. It’s been over 34 years since our first child was born, but to this day, even I carry a baby picture of him that we never recreated when the other kids came along.
Hopefully, this morning’s readers were the kind of parents that chronicled the lives of all of their kids better than we did and I congratulate and commend that very small number of dedicated parents.
If I am coming across today as some sort of jaded middle child then allow me to come clean. While not a middle child, I’m what many referred to as “the caboose.”
From September 1954 to September 1958 my parents created their very own “baby boom.” Today I remain that fourth child born slightly less than four years after my eldest sibling.
And yes, from bronzed baby shoes to cute early childhood pictures to a hand-painted graduation portrait, my parents’ house was archived and festooned with great reminders of my sister Debbie’s existence and only casual references to the three children that she called her brothers.
And that’s the stuff that they kept.
Deb got to do Scouts, go to camp, celebrate birthdays, throw a big graduation party and even join a record club. By the time it came for Mr. and Mrs. Ford’s fourth child to get a crack at any of those things, everyone in the family was so done with doing stuff like that, I felt guilty even suggesting that anyone let me do it. So don’t even bother rummaging through the family photo albums for any Cub Scout meeting, birthday party, Little League game or graduation party pictures of me. I could expand the list to include our family’s library of 8 mm movies, but we all get the point.
See what I’ve done now?
Just like that, in the blink of an eye and with the power of the press at my disposal, I’ve committed the same offense that I began this column in the attack of. Instead of making reparations to the underphotographed and undercelebrated generations of readers whose only error was not being born first, I’ve managed to make this piece all about me.
Middle children readers are now shaking their fists or spitting out their coffee at the sound of this baby whining about the unfairness of life. They know that no other segment of the population has received more benefits and breaks than those born last. To paraphrase my opening scenario bride: “Of course he’s whining, he’s the baby.”